Christ Church Cathedral decision could boost city investment - developers

Government and church leaders will announce the fate of Christ Church Cathedral at a press conference of Wednesday afternoon.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Government and church leaders will announce the fate of Christ Church Cathedral at a press conference of Wednesday afternoon.

With hours left until the fate of the Christ Church Cathedral is announced, readers are mixed on what they want to happen.

Five years of uncertainty and inertia in Cathedral Square will come to an end on Wednesday afternoon.

At 4.30pm the Government and the Church Property Trustees will announce a plan for the future of the Cathedral.

It is expected that some parts of the church will be restored and others, such as the badly damaged front facade and spire, given a different treatment.

KEY PLAYER: Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, has fronted the church's updates on the cathedral.
CARYS MONTEATH/FAIRFAX NZ

KEY PLAYER: Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, has fronted the church's updates on the cathedral.

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Comments from readers have varied.

Jaime Winter commented on The Press Facebook page she hoped the decision was "sensible".

KEY PLAYER: Great Christchurch Buildings Trust co-chair Philip Burdon has fought for the cathedral to be restored.
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ

KEY PLAYER: Great Christchurch Buildings Trust co-chair Philip Burdon has fought for the cathedral to be restored.

"I hope thought has been put into the future not just the now." Christchurch was making "massive head way", and she didn't believe something "very striking" could be done without making it a modern eyesore.

Kat Smith said she wanted a "save and repair" job.

"Save the history then repair with a new but complimentary design for then we can see the full effect."

KEY PLAYER: Auckland lawyer Miriam Dean QC was appointed by the Government to broker a deal between church leaders and ...
JOHN SELKIRK/FAIRFAX NZ

KEY PLAYER: Auckland lawyer Miriam Dean QC was appointed by the Government to broker a deal between church leaders and heritage campaigners.

Jonathon Masters didn't want the Cathedral to be saved.

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"Demolish it it's a hazard waiting to happen."

OneLessCar commented on Stuff, they wanted to see a "safe" Cathedral building.

"Each and every significant quake in the history of the Anglican Cathedral has caused damage. It is time that safety is put first - even before history."

DECISION WILL BOOST INVESTMENT

Developers say breaking Christ Church Cathedral deadlock will boost central city investment

Miles Yeoman wanted to build two hotels on the old Press site behind the cathedral and said that after years of frustration, "any decision now is a good decision".

"It will be a catalyst for a whole next wave of development. The square has been overlooked for five years," Yeoman said.

Ernest Duval, who owns the nearby Cathedral Junction precinct and heads lobby group City Owners Rebuild Entity (Core), hoped everyone would now get behind whatever decision was made.

"It will provide certainty for everyone around the square. That area north of Hereford St desperately needs something to be done.

"People could start to make plans, it will give a lot of confidence."

Duval said even if it took years, work on the cathedral would create a more upbeat environment that the "negative air of abandonment" that was there now.

He hoped the announcement would be quickly followed by news on progress with the Convention Centre opposite.

"That would be the very best Christmas present for the people of Christchurch."

Cathedral Square and its surrounds have remained a wasteland since the February 2011 earthquake as investors sought out more attractive opportunities in areas such as Victoria St and the west bank of the Avon River.

The likely deal comes three months after the Government appointed Auckland lawyer Miriam Dean QC to broker a solution between church leaders, who wanted to partly demolish the building, and heritage campaigners who wanted to save it.

Dean's report on the cathedral will also be released on Wednesday, as well as a separate statement from Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

The church has been mired in legal controversies for much of the last five years, preventing any action on the quake-damaged building.

Christchurch corporate leaders have commented that the protracted process has held back development in and around Cathedral Square.

Certainty around the cathedral's future will give some assurance to investors considering putting money into the area.

"The cathedral sitting as-is, where-is is just a big disincentive for investors," Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said.

"They know something has to happen and until they know what, they hold back."

Investors did not need a rebuilt or repaired cathedral to move forward, he said, only surety that something was going to happen.

"There are many people who are ready to make investment decisions [in Cathedral Square]. People just need to know what is going to happen and then they can make decisions around that," Townsend said.

CATHOLIC LEADERS NEAR DECISION

Meanwhile, a decision on whether or not Christchurch's other cathedral could be saved was expected by February.

Catholic leaders announced a $45-million revamp of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in May. It involved repairing some parts of the church and rebuilding others.

The project hinged on preserving and repairing the nave – the main central part of the church. Work had started to clear rubble from the site and Catholic Diocese property and development manager Keith Beal said that would allow the design team to investigate the damage more closely.

"By the end of February we should have a lot more information in terms of knowing the strength of the existing structure and if that's within our assumptions then all the work we've done on the designs has got us into a great place.

"All the signs of what we're seeing so far are pointing to the fact that we should see a good result."

If the plan went ahead, some parts of the cathedral would be sealed off for potential restoration in the future. Other parts of the building could not be saved.

CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL TIMELINE:
February 2011: Cathedral damaged in major earthquake.
December 2011: Cathedral further damaged in two aftershocks.
March 2012: Bishop Matthews confirms the Christ Church Cathedral is to be demolished.
April 2012: Demolition begins with west wall of spire.
November 2012: Demolition work put on hold by the High Court.
April 2013: Three options presented to the public for cathedral: modern replacement, restoration, and rebuild with modern materials.
September 2013: Modern option chosen by church.
May 2014: High Court lifts injunction stopping demolition. This was upheld in the Appeal Court in July.
September 2015: Anglican diocese announce plans to bring in an independent Government-appointed consultant
December 2015: A plan for the future of the cathedral is announced. 

 - Stuff

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